Figuring Out the NSW Gov’s Great Koala National Park Process

Fears that the NSW Government have misled the electorate over the new Park.

Sat 06 Apr 24


The NSW Government faces mounting pressure over allegations that it has misled the NSW electorate about the Great Koala National Park process.

Last month, Koppers – responsible for supplying more than 60% of NSW’s electricity via hardwood power poles – told Wood Central it is concerned that the NSW Government is sleepwalking to a catastrophe over an ill-informed policy on Native Forests. 

For months, the supply chain for Australia’s hardwood industry has flagged concerns with NSW policymakers over a lack of accountability and transparency in establishing the Park, with Maree McCaskill, the Timber NSW CEO, telling Wood Central:

 “It was important for the industry to stress to the key policymakers the impact that a potential closure would have, not just for the communities directly impacted by the policy but also for the broader NSW electorate.”

Last year, then Opposition Leader and now NSW Premier Chris Minns pledged to develop the Great Koala National Park – stretching from Clarence to Coffs Harbour. Footage courtesy of @7News.

These concerns have led Michael Kemp, a member of Oxley in NSW’s Mid North Coast, one of the areas that the new Koala Park will impact, to raise questions about the validity of the process led by powerful NSW Environmental Tsar Penny Sharpe.

Last month, Mr Kemp stood up in the NSW State Parliament and stated that the decision on the establishment of the Great Koala National Park (GKNP) on the Mid North Coast of NSW:

“Does not belong to a single voice but should involve many voices, mostly from the Mid-North Coast. The Labor Government is attempting to blindfold us. Rather than using its chance to engage in authentic discussion with the community, it chooses to undermine us by including carefully curated elitists pretending to be our community representatives.” 

Michael Kemp, NSW State Member for Oxley, as reported in NSW Hansard on March 14, 2024.

It comes as Minister Sharpe told NSW’s Budget Estimates for Portfolio Committee No. 7 (when questioned about the Park):

“One of the things that I promised people from the opposition was that, when we came into Government, we would have people at the table who are impacted and stakeholders. That includes our environmentalists, who I’ve worked very closely with for a long time.”

oxley map
Oxley is a regional electorate covering four local government areas, including all of Kempsey Shire Council, Bellingen Shire, Nambucca Shire and part of Port Macquarie-Hastings Council. Its major population centres are Kempsey, Macksville, Wauchope, Bellingen, Dorrigo, Nambucca Heads and all of the towns and villages in between – and it is home to a thriving timber community. (Photo Credit: Michael Kemp, Member for Oxley website)

In November 2023, Premier Chris Minns detailed the roadmap to create the Park – outlining three critical components to establishing the Great Koala National Park, one of which was a community advisory panel. 

In September 2023, Minister Sharpe said similar words: “The Government is taking serious steps towards its creation and will work closely with the community.”

According to Mr Kemp:

“Community consultation begins at the grassroots. It is not inviting people to vocalise their thoughts on a region foreign to them—those who live within the concrete walls of Greater Sydney and are seated on a board as chair or listed as a campaigner for a not‑for‑profit. Almost one‑quarter of the community panel does not live on the Mid North Coast.” 

He added, “Real community members should be the first to be selected for a seat at this table. If the Minns Government wants the voices of activists, campaigners, and not-for-profits, another panel should be curated to their skill set.”

The reality differs from what the Premier and his Minister have asserted!

The new committee is packed with anti-native forestry interests.

The summary of who the Government appointed are:

  • Only one person on the community committee comes from the private sector. 
  • One is a NSW public servant in the Business area who lives in the region.
  • One person from tourism from outside the region,
  • All the others are well-known environmentalists. 

The full breakdown of the nineteen members of the Community Committee:

  • The eleven members who live in the region include: one in the private sector, a pharmacist, seven well-known active environmentalists, two local government officers, and one NSW Public Servant.
  • Five members come from outside the region, and all but one are associated with environmental organisations based in Sydney. All of these (four) are well-known environmental not-for-profits that campaign aggressively against native forestry operations. 
  • While five are NSW State bureaucrats.

The Committee Members were selected by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, part of the NSW Department of Environment. The Minister for this Department is The Hon. Penny Sharpe, a well-known and long-term member of the Left Wing of the NSW State ALP and a fervent supporter of the anti-native forestry movement.

NSW powerbroker Penny Sharpe is the activist with 4 ministerial portfolios who joined the establishment to "cause trouble." (Photo Credit: Richard Milnes from Alamy Live News)
NSW powerbroker Penny Sharpe is the activist with 4 ministerial portfolios who joined the establishment to “cause trouble.” (Photo Credit: Richard Milnes from Alamy Live News)

The Convenor of the Great Koala National Park Consultation is Trish Harrup, Executive Director of Conservation & Aboriginal Partnerships of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. 

Before entering the NSW Public Service, Ms Harrup was a Climate Team Leader at Greenpeace in Sydney and the Executive Director of the Conservation Council ACT Region.

In short, Michael Kemp MP is correct. The Community Consultative Committee is not a community-based body. 

There are no Chamber of Commerce representatives, prominent local business people, community service bodies, or general community connections save for one person. The committee’s composition is a stack for the anti-forestry movement across the NSW State.

Does the Community Committee speak for the divergent views of the North Coast community? No, it does not!

The NSW Government is facilitating conflicts of Interest!

Below is a breakdown of the known conflicts:

  • The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service will benefit from establishing the Great Koala National Park, yet this agency is running the consultation process. 
  • The National Parks Association, a private body seeking to extend national parks and who proposed the Great Koala National Park concept, is on the consultative panel. 

Both these matters would compromise the finding in a usual review process. However, not so under the Minns-led NSW State Government!

The two excluded government agencies who should be at the table include:

  • Natural Resources Commission, the Government’s neutral empire between Government departments in Government resource issues., and
  • The Forestry Corporation of NSW manages State Forests, is the conservation manager for sensitive areas, and is the only holder of detailed data on State Forests. 
The NSW Government has several conflicts of interest which erode the integrity of the Great Koala National Park process, in a real life example of “Yes Minister” in action. Footage courtesy of @BBCStudios.
The political reality

This contextualises the words of the Premier and the NSW Minister for the Environment. It had no intention of doing what it said before the review and consultation process started.

When it was responsible for including state forests in national parks, the Carr Government had a process where state forests, stakeholders, and national parks met around a table with maps. 

The loss of timber yield, forest connectivity issues, and the desire for more areas to be declared national parks were hammered out using topographical and forest data.

Instead, the NSW Government has elected a process that lacks transparency, seemingly lacks real data, and has removed any stakeholder on the productive side of State Forests save a Union representative. A representative that does not represent the North Coast of NSW union members!

So, who sits on the committee?

The List of members of the Community Consultative Committee

The list of the Community Consultative Committee for establishing the GKNP is as follows, along with relevant comments.

  • 1. Ashley Love, Bellingen Environment Centre (BEC); a well-known local environmentalist.
  • 2. Atticus Fleming AM, A/Coordinator-General, Environment and Heritage Group (EHG). 
  • 3. Dailan Pugh, President, North East Forest Alliance, a well-known local environmentalist.
  • 4. Dr Grahame Douglas, President, National Parks Association (NPA); University of Western Sydney with a PhD in bushfire protection and climate change. 
  • 5. Jonathon Cassell, Councillor, City of Coffs Harbour Council; a well-known local environmentalist.
  • 6. Linda Taylor, Regional NSW Tourism Industry Council; a State Government bureaucrat in Sydney. 
  • 7. Lyndon Schneiders, Executive Director, Australian Climate and Biodiversity Foundation; Sydney-based and former national director of the Wilderness Society. Lyndon has been a vocal advocate against native forestry for some time. It is understood that his partner is Felicity Wade, the convener of the Labour Environment Action Network (LEAN). When she was on the staff of the NSW State Opposition Leader, Luke Foley, Felicity Wade wrote the ALP policy for establishing the GKNP. 
  • 8. Patricia Edwards, Clarence Environment Centre; a well-known local environmentalist.
  • 9. Paula Flack, President, Nambucca Valley Conservation Association; a well-known local environmentalist.
  • 10. Sally Townley, Councillor, City of Coffs Harbour Council, environmental scientist. 
  • 11. Scott Lenton, Manager Environmental and Regulatory Services, Clarence Valley Council; a town planner and a local government public servant.
  • 12. Dr Stuart Blanch, Senior Manager, World Wide Fund for Nature; WWF is an organisation with over $70M in income and is based in Sydney. It is well known for being anti-native forestry and fund-raising on this basis. 
  • 13. Steve Allan, Mayor, Bellingen Shire Council; a local pharmacist and business owner.
  • 14. Susie Russell, Vice President of the North Coast Environment Council, is a well-known environmentalist. The North Coast Environmental Council is Northern NSW’s peak umbrella environment group.   
  • 15. Will O’Neill, Principal Project Officer, NPWS, EHG, a State Government bureaucrat in Sydney 
  • 16. Wilson Harris, Forest Campaigner, Nature Conservation Council, is a well-known local environmentalist against native forestry and frequently seeks campaign donations. The organisation is based in inner Sydney. 
  • 17. Kellon Beard, Regional Director, Mid North Coast, Business NSW; NSW public servant based in Port Macquarie.
  • 18. Lori Modde, Chief Executive Officer, Outdoors NSW, and ACT; this body is the peak body for Outdoor, Education, Therapy and Adventure Tourism. Not based on the North Coast.
  • 19. Megan Jones, Environmental Planning Officer, Kempsey Shire Council; a Local Government public servant. 


  • Jack Rodden-Green

    Jack Rodden-Green, with 30 years of experience as a forester in New South Wales, combines a deep understanding of forestry with legal training to address social and environmental issues.


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